The complexity of compromise
Boy, oh boy, there can be conflict within our minds and hearts sometimes, right? It is as though you could close your eyes for just a moment and see this little image of the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, each presenting their argument for why you should listen to their "advice" on what decision to make in the moment. Well, it isn't that easy sometimes to be sure we are clearly able to distinguish between one voice over the other. That clever part of us is always finding "loopholes" in the arguments of one or the other simply because we really want to do things our way anyway!
So I tell you, live the way the Spirit leads you. Then you will not do the evil things your sinful self wants. The sinful self wants what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit wants what is against the sinful self. They are always fighting against each other, so that you don’t do what you really want to do. But if you let the Spirit lead you, you are not under law. (Galatians 5:16-18 ERV)
We sometimes find ourselves manipulating the truth, or believing the true part of a lie in order to justify what it is we really wanted to do in the first place. This is not a new issue with the human race, and I suspect it will continue on until Christ returns! When Paul writes to the Galatian church to not make light of their freedom they have been given in Christ, he reminds them of a couple simple "tests" or "ways to know" we are doing the right things. It wasn't too long before the believers of that day began to realize they were given a tremendous gift in God's grace and this presented a totally new set of problems for them.
You see, if they didn't "have to" follow the rules of the Law of Moses any longer, replete with the lengthy Torah and other rules added to the mix, they weren't going to! Regardless of how that made their brothers and sisters feel around them, some were enjoying their "freedom" way to freely and Paul needed to reign them in a little. We are just like that first century group of believers when we take the gift of grace we have been given and think this gives us liberty to do whatever we want because we have grace to fall back on.
Grace is not something we "fall back on" - it is something we step forward into and realize the change it makes in our lives, as a result. Grace doesn't give us liberty so we can justify those actions which are a little "marginal" in our lives. You know the ones I mean - those times when we act one way, but know deep down the action isn't really honoring the Lord fully. When we choose to walk in our liberty in this manner, we often overlook the feelings of others, or what they believe to be true for their own lives. We take liberty to the extreme and then we find ourselves doing harm to both ourselves (because we have compromised the purity of truth) and others (because we have brought about a conflict of values).
The Law of Moses wasn't a bad thing. We humans have a tendency to take really good things and "elaborate" on them to make them "better". This is just how we work. The Law pointed Israel toward their need of a Savior - one whose blood would redeem them from their sin. It pointed them toward relationship with God Almighty - no other gods before him. It also pointed out their need for closeness to him - as anything else would cause a drift from the truth contained within the Law.
In the way all humans go about living life, some of the rules seemed a little "too binding" - they confined the follower too tightly compared to those not living under those same rules. Isn't this the age-old struggle revealed in just about every teenagers life along about the time they argue that "so-and-so's mother" is letting them go there, or do that, so "why can't I"? In much the same way, the Israelites wanted to "add to" the rules some "clarifying factors" - making it "simpler" or "more realistic" to follow the rule if you did it this way or that. In time, those rules became more binding and difficult to follow because all compromise does is add complexity to life, my friends!
Paul's reminder is that freedom isn't liberty to do anything we desire. It is freedom to draw closer to Jesus because now the complexity of compromise no longer exists! Just sayin!